"Why? Why did you do this?"

I didn't have to see what was going on to know what was going on. My husband had walked into the bathroom and stepped into a pool on the bathroom floor. My son had poured bowlfuls of water from his bath onto the floor. My husband asked, "Why?" as though there were actually an answer! Why? I laughed to myself as I headed straight for the mop and rag. How many times had I asked the same question before? "Why did you hit your sister? Why did you just spit out your food? Why did you color on the walls? Why don't you listen? Why?" - the famous why that has no answer. "Why? I don't know, because I'm a child and I wanted to? Or maybe I didn't even want to do it, but I just did it?"

Life is not a neat square box After trial and error I have now discovered that when facing the sticky, or in this case wet, situations that I find myself in with my children- instead of asking why to a question that has no answer, the best thing to do is just pick up the mop, (or, if they are old enough, hand them the mop). Clean up the mess, tell them that we don't do this sort of thing (and then, of course, they ask why), and move on.

The realization of how senseless asking "why" is dawned on me one day after my children and I had finished cleaning up their room. Three seconds later my son started to throw his toys everywhere and make a huge mess. What was this, a rebellion? "Why are you making a mess after we just cleaned up?"

He looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "Because I want to."

I took a deep breath and thought about the situation. "Elana, as much as you try, you simply have no control. Life is not a neat square box and neither are your children. You ask why, but what you are really saying is: 'I am not in control.'"

"You know what," I told my son, "it's your room. Go ahead- make a mess, but keep the mess in here and when you are finished, please clean it up."

My son looked at me- at first stunned and bewildered, and then relieved. Was it such a terrible thing that I did, to relinquish control? In the end, he did clean up his mess.

I thought about the birth that I had recently attended as a doula. The woman giving birth labored beautifully. She was focused on the baby within, on the end result, and not on the pain of the contractions. I felt that we were in synch as we breathed together and swayed together, breathing the baby down and into the world. But then there came a point, the point of transition, the point when the woman starts to feel like she's not in control. And then as the baby is pushing its way out, the woman cries, "I can't do this." It's the moment of truth. The woman calls out, "G‑d, help me!" The baby is born soon after she gives up control.

Do you ever question and wonder, "Why did I do that? What would have happened if I had done something else?"

It's the moment of truthWe ask this senseless "why" all the time- a "why" that has no answers. Would it really matter if we had done something different in the past? Who is in control anyhow? Are we? All we can do is to pick up the mop, try to clean up our mess and learn from our mistakes- going forward and relinquishing that control.

Imagine the scene: the Nation of Israel was about to receive the Torah and for the first and only time in history the entire nation stood in union and uttered, "Na'aseh ve Nishmah (We will do and we will listen/understand). There were no "whys" because there was no reason to ask why. Everyone understood Who was in control and no one needed to ask, "Why aren't I?" The Midrash describes how each person received two crowns at the giving of the Torah, one for na'ase and one for nishma- by letting go they gained royal status as Children of the King. The next time you find yourself in a sticky or wet situation, do pick up the mop, do grab your rag, but don't forget your two crowns. Why? Why not?